The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Team Publish Paper on Workplace Environment and Productivity

28 April 2021

A new paper published in open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS, authored by Dr Kerstin Sailer, Dr Rosica Pachilova and Dr Petros Koutsolampros, examines the relationship between office workers’ visual control over their environment and their performance at work.

Kerstin Sailer

The paper,  ‘Differential perceptions of teamwork, focused work and perceived productivity as an effect of desk characteristics within a workplace layout’, discusses open-plan offices and critiques large office spaces. The study finds that office workers with more visual control over their environment rated their focus, productivity and teamwork more highly. As companies and workers navigate ways of returning to the workplace, the findings may help employers rethink how and where employees work, and how office spaces function and impact their teams’ experiences of their professional environment.

The study was carried out in spring 2018 when Kerstin, Rosica and Petros studied four floors of the London headquarters of a large international technology company. In a staff survey they reviewed workers’ satisfaction with workspaces and meeting rooms, along with a floorplan and the seating positions of all participants.

Workers seated beside windows, facing the room with a small number of desks in their field of vision, regarded themselves as more productive and focused and felt more connected to their teams. Some of the factors that negatively impacted how workers rated their environment included a high number of desks in their fields of vision and facing away from the main space with people behind them. The paper suggests counteracting these factors by designing smaller, more intimate workspaces where workers can see their colleagues.

Dr Kerstin Sailer teaches at The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Space Syntax Laboratory on the Space Syntax: Architecture and Cities MSc/MRes programme. She leads the module 'Buildings, Organisations and Networks', which focuses on the interplay between spatial, social and organisational dynamics across a variety of building types including offices, factories, schools, and hospitals. Her co-authors, Dr Rosica Pachilova and Dr Petros Koutsolampros, both completed their PhDs at The Bartlett, supervised by Kerstin.

More information

Image: Numbers of colleagues' desks directly visible from a workstation - this metric influenced workplace satisfaction. By Kerstin Sailer, Petros Koutsolampros and Rosica Pachilova